Thursday, January 16, 2014

Marra Farm Chicken Cooperative


Last summer we introduced 17 teenage chickens (pullets) to their new home at Marra Farm as part of the Marra Farm Chicken Cooperative (MFCC)!

This was a monumental step towards the dream of a community-led chicken cooperative at Marra Farm. Though Lettuce Link provided staffing and support for the initial phases of the project, the long-term vision, however, has always been to see the chicken co-op become self-sustaining and self-governed by South Park community members.

Over the past few months, the Marra Farm Chicken Cooperative has narrowed down to a core group of 13 members who share the responsibilities of morning and evening care for the brood of hens. With the help of Lettuce Link’s Marra Farm Coordinator, Kyong Soh, and AmeriCorps member Amanda Reeves, the cooperative has developed systems for accountability, communication, and collecting dues, ensuring that they properly care for the chickens and fairly share the work (and benefits).

Cooperative members have committed to daily care of the chickens, cleaning the coop on a regular basis, and regularly communicating with each other. We commend the ways that the members have worked together across linguistic, cultural, and relational differences!

To maximize the health of the chickens, the land, and the eggs, the group decided to feed the ladies organic feed, greens, and other plant scraps. With an abundance of fresh greens at Marra Farm—including scraps from Lettuce Link’s Giving Garden, the brood has a diverse array of healthy greens to munch on alongside the store-bought feed. The hens get quite excited when presented with some scrumptious chard or bites of winter squash.

Given the timing of the project, the hens approached egg-laying age as winter approached and egg production dramatically tapered off. However, in late October co-op members collected the first few eggs, allowing the group to see their commitment pay off! It’s a nice taste of what the springtime will bring.



We welcome you to visit the chickens at Marra Farm. Community neighbors and visitors alike have enjoyed watching the chickens and seeing urban farming on a whole different level. The chickens also provide an opportunity to educate visitors about the importance of ethical and healthy animal care, and the amazing possibilities that emerge with community collaboration. Next time you come to Marra Farm, please walk around and say “hello” to the Marra Farm chickens!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter at Marra farm


With chilly temperatures and shortened hours of daylight, Northwest gardeners are taking a much-deserved winter’s rest. Cover crops have been sown, leaf mulch has been spread, and the gardeners are resting and remembering the year’s harvest.


While much of Lettuce Link's Giving Garden at Marra Farm has been “tucked to bed,” we are still hard at work tending 10 newly planted beds for winter growing! Garlic, spinach, chard, fava beans, bok choy, radishes, and carrots will grow slowly but surely throughout the winter months and help usher in the new season with an early spring harvest.

In November we set up hoop houses over the delicate crops to shield the small sprouts from bitter winter winds and freezing temperatures. We hope that the plants, snugly tucked in under these portable greenhouses, will make it until March.

Our preparations for our long winter's nap were no small task. The water to the whole farm is shut off to avoid freezing pipes, requiring resourceful and creative solutions to nourish the fledgling plants. Thanks to the help of South Park resident and grower, Irene, we set up a gravity-fed water barrel system to collect and distribute water. As a member of the Marra Farm Chicken Cooperative, Irene also helped set up a winterized water system for the coop.

Winter is also a time for preparation. Even though Marra Farm doesn’t appear to be very active, we are using the respite from the busyness to organize the sheds, maintain and clean the tools, order seeds, and plan for the 2014 growing season. Beyond preparing farm operations, we are planning for community events in South Park in the upcoming year. We are excited for the possibilities in 2014 and hope you'll stay tuned for updates on opportunities to join us!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Foxy Fellow Ornament


At Lettuce Link, we’re so privileged to be supported by the wider community. Every year we receive donations of seeds for our farms and seed distributions at food banks, food for events, technical skills and labor for building and repairing structures, and a host of other in-kind donations and financial support (this year it even included a chicken coop).

This December, we’re delighted that City People’s Garden Store has chosen us as the recipient for 100% of the proceeds from their Foxy Fellows ornament.

As City People’s describes the ornament: 
Each 4.5" tall Fox stands or hangs from a jute loop. Snappy sweaters, scarves and caps, little wire glasses, a miniature satchel, and a teensy pipe all add to the charm of these clever foxes. $9.99 each.

Support Lettuce Link and a great local business: stop by City People's Garden Store today to purchase a foxy fellow, and consider shopping there for your garden needs all year long! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's Cooking at Concord?

While the gardens snooze, our education programming sneaks indoors to Concord Elementary. We're two months deep into our school-based work, so we thought it was time for an update!

Monday through Wednesday, we teach cooking-based nutrition education to grades K-5. Recently, second graders met Pepita, the Purple Protein [hand-puppet] Squirrel and explored plant-based proteins through black bean and sweet potato chili. In fifth grade, we listened to a story about the Three Sisters - corn, beans, and squash - and learned about the traditional importance of these crops for Native agriculturists across the hemisphere. Kindergarten noses were tickled by the soft aroma of cabbage soup, which they seasoned and sampled.

At the end of October we held a Healthy Halloween raffle, where kids could turn in 5+ pieces of candy for a raffle ticket. This effort collected more than 45 pounds of candy (not quiiiiite as much as Emerson Elementary), which a kind dental office in Bellevue shipped to military personnel overseas.

Outside of the classroom, Apple Corps members have coached a Girls on the Run! team. Fifteen third, fourth, and fifth grade girls trained after school all fall for a 5K race, which took place last Saturday, December 7 at Seward Park. It was a chilly day, but the Concord Cougars had a great run!

We've begun a second year of 4th Grade Cooks, a night of community cooking led by students. Below are some pictures and a recipe from our first evening, which featured the return of some favorite menu items from last year. Want to join the fun? We could use 1-2 volunteers on Thursdays December 12 and January 16 from 5:30-8pm. E-mail Amelia at amelias@solid-ground.org if you're interested!

~Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link Education Coordinator

Mahlet fine-tunes the griddle for pupusas
Salad fingers massage repollo
Souperstars making Squash and Lentil Soup!

Spicy Squash and Red Lentil Soup


Ingredients:

  • 6 cups peeled, cubed winter squash 
  • ¾ cup red lentils 
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil 
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 cup chopped celery 
  • 2 tsp curry powder 
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg 
  • ½ tsp coriander 
  • Cayenne, to taste 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste 
  • 2 cups milk (optional) 

Directions:

  1. Cook squash and lentils in 5 cups of water in a large soup pot until tender, 20-25 minutes. 
  2. Working in batches, puree the squash, lentils, and cooking water in a food processor or blender. Return puree to the pot and set aside. 
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and celery until tender, about 5 min. 
  4. Add the sautéed vegetables to the soup pot. Stir in spices and lemon juice. Heat soup and bring to a simmer. Add tomato, milk if desired, and simmer 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Serves 8

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tapestry of Culture at the Rainier Valley Food Bank

The produce grown at the Seattle Community Farm goes to work trade participants and the Rainier Valley Food Bank (RVFB). This summer, our intern Victoria went to the food bank each Wednesday to share information with clients about the work trade program and the Cooking Matters class at the Seattle Community Farm. Here are her thoughts on the experience:

No larger than a classroom, the distribution room of the Rainier Valley Food Bank vibrates with energy and movement every Wednesday morning. Food bank clients lug around suitcases and duffel bags of food, while volunteers shuttle crates from the warehouse to the distribution room. On the outdoor patio, clients mingle clustered by language group as they wait to enter the distribution room.

Serving one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America, the Rainier Valley Food Bank is a vibrant assembly of people. Hunger does not discriminate: people of all cultures come together at the food bank.

This combination of many cultures creates the culture of the Rainier Valley Food Bank community. Although communication is challenging since dozens of different languages are spoken, the community is unified by the goal of eliminating hunger.

Since the Rainier Valley Food Bank’s founding in May 1991, it has undergone changes in management, name, and funding. Today the food bank has three full-time employees and two AmeriCorps VISTA members. The staff does an amazing job stretching the budget, with the help of over 500 volunteers annually. A handful of these volunteers come every single week, and some have volunteered at the food bank for years.

The Rainier Valley Food Bank transformed my relationship with and awareness of food. Without the privilege of food security, food loses its glamour. Being at the food bank forced me to remove my rose-tinted glasses of privilege and view food from a more basic perspective. When people are hungry, their relationship with food is more intimate, poignant, and primal. I saw humanity in the context of food insecurity — there is a raw honesty in asking for help with something so fundamental.

When I started doing outreach at the Rainier Valley Food Bank, I was a stranger. But on my last day, an elderly woman wrapped me in a warm embrace and told me I was a good girl. In just six weeks the Rainier Valley Food Bank wove me into their tapestry of culture. Although my presence at the food bank will gently fade away with time, the community I found there is now imprinted in my being.

I am so thankful for the perspectives and acceptance I found this summer at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. I am honored that I was able to help them with their work and to strengthen the relationship between the food bank and the Seattle Community Farm.

~ Victoria, Lettuce Link DukeEngage summer intern

Thanks for your hard work and dedication, Victoria. We know that the Rainier Valley Food Bank loved having you volunteer with them this summer!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Faces of the Fruit Harvest: Phil in Ballard

This summer and fall we've had a wonderful group of volunteers scouting, harvesting and delivering fruit for the Community Fruit Tree Harvest. We've also had a number of people step into leadership roles, including three folks who are Harvest Leads for specific neighborhoods.

These volunteers contact tree donors to schedule harvests, send out announcements to volunteers, plan the logistics for the harvests, and harvest fruit alongside other volunteers. Their commitment to the project and their communities is what makes the Community Fruit Tree Harvest possible.

One of the great aspects of the fruit harvest is the opportunity to get to know each other while we harvest. And here's your opportunity to get to know one of our Harvest Leads: Phil Hecht, of Ballard.

Phil is a general contractor by day, and as you can see from his picture, an avid fisherman. His organizational skills and enthusiasm for harvesting fruit have been great additions to the Community Fruit Tree Harvest this year.

What got you interested in volunteering with the Community Fruit Tree Harvest?
Phil: I read about it on the Sustainable Ballard newsletter. I volunteer to do habitat restoration for salmon and steelhead, but don't do anything for folks in need directly. I love trees, gardening and being outside...so it seemed like a great opportunity. Now that I'm involved, I am certain that I made the right decision.

What has been the most rewarding part of the program so far?
Phil: It is a tie...I love meeting the other harvesters, donors, and other people involved. However it impacts me deeply when we deliver the fruit. The excitement and gratitude is moving.

What is your favorite fruit to harvest and why?
Phil: Honestly anything in a big, tall tree. If I have to pick though, pears. They are hard and hurt if they bonk you. Exciting!


A big thank you to Phil, Eunice, and Rita for leading neighborhoods harvests this summer, and to all the volunteers who stepped up to lead individual harvests and scout trees. You all are the heart of this program, and it's been a pleasure to work with you this season!

~Mariah, Harvest Coordinator

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Marra Farm Fall Fest 2013: A Sunny Celebration


On the day before the autumnal equinox we hosted our 12th Annual Fall Fest at Marra Farm. All week we had been worriedly watching the weather forecast, which predicted a dismal cold and wet day. But to our delight, we woke up to sun and a fresh, fall day!

It was the perfect summer sendoff. People of all ages came out for the celebration – South Park neighbors, Mien and P-Patch gardeners, Lettuce Link volunteers, and students from Concord Elementary.

Over the course of the sunny afternoon, we feasted on a delicious potluck, with items ranging from neighbor Mike’s freshly caught salmon, to grilled summer squash harvested from Marra Farm, to a wide array of international dishes from members of the Mien Community Garden and the Marra Farm P-Patch.


And we drank fresh-pressed Marra Farm apple cider! We washed and quartered the apples, cranked the cider grinder, and then pressed the pulp through to make sweet, tangy cider. The press ran the entire afternoon and every drop was thoroughly enjoyed!

Kids of all ages (and the young at heart) enjoyed pumpkin painting, apple bowling (using the Marra Farm Putt Putt hole), gunny sack races, story time with librarians from the South Park branch of the Seattle Public Library, and exploring the sensory wonders of the farm—including a ginormous sunflower head.

And what would a party be if there wasn't any music? The Rooftop Dogs bluegrass band and the Seattle Fandango Project serenaded the crowd with fun, harvest-time tunes and fantastic, foot-tapping music from Mexico.

This year’s Fall Fest was also an opportunity to honor the amazing ten years of work of Farmer Sue McGann, who will retire from Lettuce Link in early October. We welcomed two new staff members - our new Marra Farm coordinator, Kyong Soh, who started training with Sue in September, and Lettuce Link’s new Program Manager, Nate Moxley, who started work in July. Fall Fest happened to be the day before both Sue’s and Nate’s birthday, so we serenaded them with a festive, chaotic rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Community, delicious food, games, music, sunshine - we had all the ingredients for a good party. Thanks to all of you who were a part of Fall Fest in 2013, and we hope to see everyone again next year!



~ Amanda, Apple Corps Member with Lettuce Link